July 1, 2019

The 1962 movie in my "imaginary movie project" is the film version of a great Broadway play, "The Music Man."

The #1 thing I remember about my reaction to this movie when I saw it in the theater at the age of 11 is that I was horrified by the talk of tarring and feathering the main character, the con man, Harold Hill (Robert Preston). I did not know exactly what tarring and feathering was, and back then, there was no way to pause the movie and research the question on a smart phone. I should have understood entertainment well enough to know that in a peppy, chirpy movie about the foibles of small-town Iowa folk, things would not take such a dark turn that the protagonist would be tortured to death before our eyes. But I wasn't sure enough not to feel horrible.

And did Hill deserve to die for what he'd done? I felt very intense empathy for this character, who I thought might be facing the death penalty. He's hunted down by a mob — these nice people are stirred up into a mob. They're even carrying torches at night as they track him down. We see a makeshift trial. It's so unfair... as a legal matter. But narratively, it is fair, because he came to town, where the people had no problems other than their own dullness and conventionality, and he stirred them all up (just to trick them into giving him money for musical instruments and uniforms for the boy's band that was supposed to solve the problems they didn't have):



That's the best thing in the movie. "Ya Got Trouble." Ha ha. I couldn't help thinking of Donald Trump. The charisma, the effect on the crowd. He made them think he was putting into words problems that they knew they had.

Did you notice Buddy Hackett in that clip? In my little project where I rewatch a movie, one per year, that I saw in the theater when it came out, I happened into 2 Buddy Hackett movies in a row: "The Music Man" for 1962, and "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" for 1963. I already wrote about IAMMMMW, here. I have my rules for this project, but apparently writing about the movies in order isn't one of them. I am watching them in order, though.

57 years ago, I did worry terribly about the tar-and-feathering, and I think I also cared a lot more about the adorable boy with the lisp ("Ronny" Howard) and the way he turned out to be Harold Hill's path to the heart of the woman he needed to con. The woman, Marian the Librarian (Shirley Jones), is the boy's sister and the town's piano teacher, and she maintains staunch resistance to the man who's charming everybody else in town — she's a Never-Hiller — until he happens to help the boy with his lisp (and the shyness that, exaggeratedly, comes with it). What helps with the lisp is music — a song with almost no s's ("Gary, Indiana"), and I know I found that thrillingly cute when I was 11.

Today, I'm most interested in Marian. She's the one person in town who cares about what is in books. The other ladies — led by the magnificent Hermione Gingold — think there's smut in those books and they think Marian had a sexual relationship with the rich man who bequeathed all the books in the library to her. It's as if Harold Hill is a real-life fictional character come to town to break everything open. Marian believes liberation could come from reading, but — such is the logic of the musical comedy — the words need music. It's Harold Hill who reaches into the mind and activates life energy. The whole town gains vivid personality. Marian knows he's a fraud who's taking their money and has no ability to teach them to play the musical instruments, but she can see that he liberates them to the full humanity she's been begging them to find in books. On a deeper level, he really is bringing the music.

And that causes her to sing:



For all her reading about love, she "never heard it singing/No, I never heard it at all/'Til there was you." Beautiful song. It earned a Beatles cover:



Being an older woman, I was genuinely touched by the older women of the town as — inspired by Hill — they turned to dance — Isadora Duncan style dance. The story takes place in 1913, and I loved the idea that within everyone there is the spirit of the artist. Hill was a catalyst and the only kind of artist he was was a con artist... 'til there was Marian. She saw the beauty inside him, and she brought him alive.

As an 11 year old, I wanted Harold Hill to run away when he had the chance. I didn't want anyone to die. On rewatch, I loved seeing him stay for Marian, and I loved seeing her step up and make the argument for the defense at his trial: "I think there ought to be some of you who could forget our everlasting Iowa stubborn chip-on-the-shoulder arrogance long enough to remember River City before Harold Hill arrived.... Surely some of you ought to be grateful to him for what he has brought to River City."

The argument works because the boys show up in their shabby band uniforms and pathetically produce some semblance of Beethoven's Minuet in G on their rotten instruments. (Were they able to play at all because Hill's fraudulent "think system" worked, or because Marian was able to teach them a little something? I didn't know in 1962 and I don't know now.) The sound from the instruments is music only because it's heard through the ears of parents. ("That's my Davey!," etc.) The fraud becomes the truth — through love.

We get a final scene, which I know I didn't understand at age 11. The little band of boys in bad uniforms magically transforms into a gigantic, snazzily outfitted marching band:



How did that happen? What did that mean? — I wondered when I was 11.  57 years later, I get it. It wasn't a supernatural occurrence. It was a visualization of love. This is how the parents see their children. This is what Marian saw in her books. These are visions you see in your head when you read. The inward beauty of the human soul is revealed. It was always there, but you never saw it at all, 'til there was The Music Man.

101 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

Shirley Jones is pregnant in that movie, and they had to cover it up.

Robert Preston didn't know until that embrace in "'Til There Was You." The baby got into it and he felt the kick.

traditionalguy said...

Love between a man and a woman works magic if it works at all. Suddenly the lyrics of love songs make good sense. Romantic love, don’t live life without it. When did you see Doctor Zhivago...age 15?

eddie willers said...

The baby got into it and he felt the kick.

Which I never really understood until you posted that MRI. Yowza!

And I so loved Paul's Til There Was You on their first Capitol album "Meet The Beatles". It helped that my mom liked it too. (But it was And I Love Her from "HELP" that sealed the deal)

Rob said...

Tarring and feathering wouldn't normally result in death. When asked what he thought of being president, Abraham Lincoln said, "I feel like the man who was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. To the man who asked him how he liked it, he said: ‘If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk.’"

As for the power of love, it's our good fortune we can see it in action in the presidency of Marianne Williamson.

khematite said...

Meredith Willson, who wrote the musical, deserves a mention. Here's his famous contribution to JFK's 1961 physical fitness in schools initiative.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFofqe26t-4

tcrosse said...

My Scots-Irish grandfather talked like Robert Preston. It was a shock when I became aware of Robert Preston and heard somebody talking like my late grandfather.

Kay said...

One of the best musicals in my opinion. Had to sing some of these songs back in middle school for chorus class, but “Ya Got Trouble” was not one of them. Probably would have beem way too complicated for our class.

Kay said...

The Simpsons “Monorail” episode is a pretty good parody of this movie/musical.

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcocean said...

Its a great movie and deserves to be seen in a Theater with a large appreciative audience. And the "Buffalo Bills" are great too. Also, Paul Ford who is great as the pompous mayor "Four score and seven years ago.."

Howard said...

Blogger traditionalguy said...

Love between a man and a woman works magic if it works at all. Suddenly the lyrics of love songs make good sense. Romantic love, don’t live life without it. When did you see Doctor Zhivago...age 15?


I'm still in love with Julie Christie

Chuck said...

Yeah that role and Robert Preston are inseparable in my mind. Wikipedia informs that Jack Warner had wanted Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant.

rcocean said...

I'd rather been tarred and feathered than ridden out of town on a rail. Talk about painful!

rehajm said...

Shipoopi!...SR22s? You betcha! DANCE!

rcocean said...

This is one of the movies where the stars in the lead roles make the movie. Its the same with My Fair Lady or Singing in the Rain.

I was never enthusiastic about Buddy Hackett. Fortunately, his role is very small.

rcocean said...

When i was growing up, I thought 76 trombones was a commercial jingle for Union 76 gas stations. I didn't see the movie until the 1990s

Hagar said...

That would depend on whether the tar was hot or not. Applied boiling hot, skin would come off with it when removed.

rcocean said...

I think Obama is a better fit for Harold Hill. Join that bi-racial band and we'll blow those racist blues away. Multi-cultural harmony. Just sign on the dotted line.

Rory said...

Great musical. Every song is pretty near perfect, and its funny enough that it would probably work without songs.

Henry said...

He made them think he was putting into words problems that they knew they had.

Did you notice the reference to jungle music?

Mark said...

Most think of tarring and feathering in cartoon terms.

Then I saw a scene of a man being tarred and feathered in the John Adams series. Tar heated to a couple hundred degrees and poured on his naked body. Outright burning by fire would have been less horrific.

LordSomber said...

Go you chicken fat, go!

rcocean said...

Every song is pretty near perfect, and its funny enough that it would probably work without songs.

Yeah, that's the mark of a great musical. Take out the songs, and it would still be a good movie. True of: Wizard of Oz, King and I, Meet me in St. Louis, Cabin in the Sky, Oliver, My Fair Lay, Music Man, Singing in the Rain, Sound of Music, State Fair.

Anonymous said...

My mother and her father were both born in Mason City. Meredith Willson was one year ahead of my grandfather at Mason City High School. The school was not all that big, as is the case for every small town, and the two young men knew each other.

While we are on the subject of my ancestors' brush with the famous I should bring up my great-something grandmother on my father's side. She was born in 1844 and lived on a farm near Le Claire, Iowa, on the Mississippi. There was a family named Cody in the area and they had a son, William, born in 1846. The two children attended the same school, but William only stayed one year or maybe two. His family moved to Kansas and William grew up to be Buffalo Bill.

Also, my mother attended Roosevelt High School in Des Moines with Cloris Leachman.

Rory said...

"the reference to jungle music?"

When? There is a line in "Trouble" that goes:

"Libertine men and scarlet women and ragtime
Shameless music that'll grab your son your daughter with the arms
Of the jungle animal instinct mass'steria!
Friends, the idle brain is the devil's playground...."

Ann Althouse said...

Tradguy, you just guessed the next movie on my list.

J. Farmer said...

I have never seen this film and am not a particular fan of musicals, so I will just say something about Shirley Jones. She has long argued that starring in The Partridge Family ruined her career. And she is right that back in the day, film actors were constantly advised to avoid appearing in television sitcoms as it would be interpreted as a step backward, that their career was not advancing, and offers would start drying up. Today, however, thinks to the so called "golden age of television," film actors are tripping over themselves to start in various television series.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

We get a final scene, which I know I didn't understand at age 11. The little band of boys in bad uniform magically transforms into a gigantic, snazzily outfitted marching band...
How did that happen? What did that mean? — I wondered when I was 11. 57 years later, I get it. It wasn't a supernatural occurrence. It was a visualization of love. This is how the parents see their children


It is also how Kevin Spacey's character in American Beauty sees his daughter's friend...

Leslie Graves said...

Thank you! Beautiful tribute to one of my favs.

gilbar said...

respectfully, you've got it ALL WRONG (like most people)
It's not Professor Harold Hill that puts one over on the town;
It's the Town that puts one over on the poor Professor

His life was Wonderful; before he came to Ioway. He thought he could handle Anything
But, the town trapped him; trapped him with the sweetest honey: Marion
After she (and the entire town) put their claws into him; he threw his old life away.

Listen to what an earlier victim said about Iowa. Don't be like Prof Hill, and ignore Marcellus Washburn's (Buddy Hackett's) warning and end up saying
"Harold Hill: Well, for the first time in my life, I got my *foot* caught in the door. "

The entire story is a warning to everyone, to avoid those neckboned hawkeyes before you get trapped into loving the state

Krumhorn said...

While his performance in Music Man was iconic, his appearance in Victor/Victoria was perfection.

- Krumhorn

Henry said...

Rory, exactly.

Gotta protect the young against the evil of Scott Joplin.

EAB said...

Thank you for making me smile - your commentary is spot on. I love The Music Msn. I’m not huge on musicals but this one and Meet Me in St. Louis are truly as good as it gets. “Trouble” is truly amazing. When I was 21, I moved temporarily to NYC from D.C. and arrived just before the 4th of July. Everyone I knew from work had left town. It was a depressing weekend, saved only by The Music Man being on TV that evening of the 4th. Would love to see it on the big screen.

Jeff Gee said...

Our grammar school music teacher, Miss Heyn, LOVED "Till There Was You" and was at first delighted that the 4th grade boys were enthusiastic about one of her favorite songs. Then someone explained to her that we liked it because the Beatles had sung it. She was less delighted. We all sang "I never SORE it at all" like Paul. "No, no no!!" she yelled. "Not 'sore'! SAW ! SAW! Don't you sing like those bugs! SAW! SAW!"

Ann Althouse said...

The marching band in the end is the USC Marching Band.

William said...

Musicals seem to hold up the best. Sometimes I switch over to TCM during a commercial break and get hooked on some old musical. Even the corny jokes in old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies are comforting and reassuring. Musicals are something that Hollywood did right. They're not even politically incorrect like a lot of the old westerns. Well, maybe Annie Get Your Gun has a few triggering scenes that should be avoided by millenials, but. on balance, it's good fun.....Doctor Zhivago is a great movie, but it pays too much respect to the Bolshies. They're presented as visionary, albeit ruthless, idealists. They were a bunch of self righteous assholes. I'd like to see a movie where the Bolshies are presented in the way oil or banking executives are depicted.

rcocean said...

"Even the corny jokes in old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies are comforting and reassuring."

Really? How old are you?

Megthered said...

Our son played Mayor Shin in his 5th grade musical. He didn't even tell us he was going to try out for the part, but he loved it. He was in drama and acting all through high school and wanted to go to New York to "live the dream". His father nipped that in the bud and he went to law school instead. Still acting, just for more money.

readering said...

Not just a great musical but a great adaptation of a stage musical to the screen. One does not necessarily follow from the other. Of course it helped that the incomparable Robert Preston reprised his Broadway role. (Believe it or not, the Music Man beat out West Side Story for the Tony in 1958! Robert Preston got best actor in a musical.)

The film is often shown in a local theater on July 4. Last time I watched was a few years ago in that context. Hasn't lost its luster since I first saw it in a college film club screening in the seventies. Have listened to the film soundtrack countless times and also the Broadway soundtrack.

Funny about the Beatles cover. The Beatles did loads of covers, and many were recorded by BBC Radio. But rock and roll. I think a musical cover was most unusual for them, but they did put this one on an album so it got wide play.

Wince said...

Just ten years to go until Deep Throat!

Molly said...

(eaglebeak)

I saw this as kid too--loved it--I was scared by Robert Preston at first, because he was so obviously a con man, but then I loved him. Yes, kind of like Trump.

He did bring the town alive, and Marian brought his rudimentary conscience alive, and the whole thing was an astonishingly giddy and happy experience.

William said...

Harold Hill is the sunny side of Willy Loman. If the psyche of a travelling salesman could be made visible, it would look more like Harold Hill than Willy Loman. It's a job that attracts optimists. To my certain knowledge, more travelling salesman end up more like Harold Hill than Willy Loman. I think they like to think of themselves as like the tough as nails salesmen in Glengarry, but, in truth, they're not even that cynical. They're not cynical. They're not tragic. I suppose many cheat on their wives, but can you really describe that as cheating when the wife lives two states over. Anyway, they make a living and most end up in a good place. They're not like those Bolshie revolutionaries.

grimson said...

"No, please, not tonight. Maybe tomorrow."

"Oh, my dear little librarian. You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you've collected nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don't know about you, but I'd like to make today worth remembering."

That didn't register when I was younger, but did once I was older.

Narr said...

Prof makes me want to watch it again, and I hate musicals!

The Beatles as a group had an impressive knowledge of British Isles and American popular music and styles--including musicals, musical comedies, music hall numbers, and vaudeville.

Narr
Great artists

Ann Althouse said...

Clarification: tradguy guessed my 1965 movie, which is the next one I need to watch. I have watched my 1964 movie and still need to write something.

No one will guess my 1964 movie. It’s not a good or famous movie, just something I happened to see back then.

jimbino said...

The Duke and the Dauphin were threatened with being tarred and feathered in Huckleberry Finn.

mezzrow said...

Meredith Willson was a remarkable musician.

In addition to his gift of composition (he wrote two symphonies and several other works) and this iconic work, he played flute in Sousa's famous band in his teens and in the NY Phil under Toscanini in his 20s. He was a world class player, trained at what later became the Julliard School, and one of Iowa's greatest gifts to our world. He was a very very big deal when I was a young bandgeek in your age cohort, Althouse. One of my mentors was director of the U of Iowa bands during the Music Man years - lots of stories, all pleasant.

This is firmly in my list of ten favorite films, and is just about perfect to tell the story of an America we will not see again.

Beasts of England said...

Interesting how songs trigger memories. I hadn't known that 'Til There Was You' was a cover until the mid-nineties. My (then) wife and I went to New Orleans for an anniversary and ate a French restaurant - Louis XVI - which had a strolling musician on classical guitar.

When he made his way to us I asked if he knew anything by The Beatles. He said he knew one they had covered, and that was it. When we got back home she asked that I learn it. Some unusual chords in that chart: F#dim, C7+5...

FWBuff said...

I love this movie! I watch it every year around the 4th of July. My favorite little fact about this show is that the tune for “76 Trombones” is the same tune as “Goodnight, My Someone”, just faster. I used to sing “Goodnight, My Someone” to my daughters as a lullaby when they were little. Sweet memories.

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, so not "Dr. Strangelove," which wasn't all the good but is very famous, or "Zorba the Greek," also very famous, and certainly not "Goldfinger," which is also very famous. I'm going to guess, in this order, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown,""The Americanization of Emily," or "Father Goose."

Please, Dear God, don't let it be "Bikini Beach" starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.

Clark said...

Favorite song from that movie: pick a little talk a little + good night ladies.

Ann Althouse said...

"My favorite little fact about this show is that the tune for “76 Trombones” is the same tune as “Goodnight, My Someone”, just faster."

There is a fantastic reprise of the 2 songs toward the end as Marian and Harold are getting ready to meet at the bridge (that is, to get to the "Til There Was You" scene). Marian is singing "Goodnight My Someone" in her room as she's getting ready for him. She'd sung the song earlier when she had no one (showing the strength of her imagination, as a reader). Hers is a desire for true spiritual love. He's singing "76 Trombones" which is a lusty song, symbolic of sexual energy. That's how he's thinking of her. Then, as each is thinking of the other, it switches, and he's doing "Goodnight My Someone" — he wants spiritual love — and she's got the sexual energy, "76 Trombones."

You can watch that here.

Ann Althouse said...

"@Althouse, so not "Dr. Strangelove," which wasn't all the good but is very famous, or "Zorba the Greek," also very famous, and certainly not "Goldfinger," which is also very famous. I'm going to guess, in this order, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown,""The Americanization of Emily," or "Father Goose.""

Didn't see "Strangelove" the year it came out.

Have never seen "Zorba the Greek."

Considered "Goldfinger" but it's way overpriced on Amazon Prime, like 3 times what other movies cost. I wasn't that interested.

Never saw "The Unsinkable Molly Brown,""The Americanization of Emily," or "Father Goose."

The movie I really wanted to rewatch is "Dingaka," but it is only available on videotape and it costs $50.

You'll never guess.

rcocean said...

"Lida Rose" and "Will I Ever Tell You", sung first separately and then simultaneously, are examples of Broadway counterpoint (songs with separate lyrics and separate melodies that harmonize and are designed to be sung together). Similarly, "Pickalittle" and "Good Night Ladies" are also sung first separately, and then in counterpoint.

Love that counterpoint!

rcocean said...

"Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte"

Scared the crap out of me, when I was 7. Of course, I saw it on TV.

Big Mike said...

You'll never guess.

You're right. Just so long as it wasn't "Bikini Beach."

Kathryn51 said...

"We get a final scene, which I know I didn't understand at age 11."

Althouse, we are the same age (well, same birth year) and I understood that scene. Loved the whole movie.

The one thing I didn't understand? The concept of "Wells Fargo" bringing packages once a week. In 1962, one ordered items from Sears Catalog and picked it up at the local store-front. Every town had a street-side Sears store. We seem to have reverted to the Wells Fargo model.

Jeff Gee said...

I'm checking out the Wikipedia '1964 in film' page looking for movies that are not good and not famous. It was apparently the year of the Three Tonys. There are way more movies starring Tony Franciosa, Tony Randall, and Tony Curtis than I would have thought possible in a single year. 7 Faces of Dr. Lao! Sex and the Single Girl! The Brass Bottle! The Pleasure Seekers! And several more! They all seem plausibly non-famous and not-good. But I'm going with (non-Tony) 'Kitten with a Whip' starring Ann-Margret.

Rory said...

The non-famous pick for a barely-teen girl in 1964 would be George Roy Hill's "The World of Henry Orient." But it's a good movie.

rcocean said...

Zorba the Greek is terrible. If I was Greek, I'd label it a hate crime. As it is, its a bore. And how did Anthony Quinn become Mr. Greek in the 1960s? He's Greek in The Guns to navoronne too. He's about as Greek as Zapata.

rcocean said...

Can we take up a collection for Althouse to See "Goldfinger" ? I'd love to see her write that she felt sorry Goldfinger when Bond cheated him in the Golf Game. And the Chinese at the end? They were just undocumented immigrants.

cubanbob said...

Krumhorn said...
While his performance in Music Man was iconic, his appearance in Victor/Victoria was perfection.

- Krumhorn"

Agree! I can't think of any actor who could have played Hill or Toddy. Victor/Victoria. A delightful film.

cubanbob said...

Althouse here is a Shot In The Dark: Good Neighbor Sam or Goodbye Charlie for 1964. Perhaps My Fair Lady. It was on balance a pretty good year for movies.

Kirk Parker said...

rcocean @ 8:23pm,

"Yeah, that's the mark of a great musical. Take out the songs, and it would still be a good movie."

The converse is true, too -- consider Hello Dolly or South Pacific.

"My Fair Lay"

Typo Of The Year!

Zach said...

"Trouble with a Capital T" is such a musically interesting song. The verse is recitative, and the melody only comes in on the chorus!

Hill is in love with his own voice and the endless complications of whatever story he's selling. But it's the listeners who turn it into music.

Mike Sylwester said...

Beautifully written, Ann!

Flat Tire said...

By 1959 my parents were playing the Broadway soundtrack nightly. I know all the songs by heart but barely remember the movie. My placid, patient pony pulled the "Wells Fargo Wagon" on stage for our very small town theater company about 1960. I was 10 and felt such pride because she behaved so well and the town loved her. I was terrified each night when a nice old farmer took her back and forth in his 1950's pickup with rickety stake sides.

Temujin said...

The Music Man was a timeless story, except that it won't work in these times. They would not understand the emotions and the entire feel of it. At a gut level, the yoots would be triggered constantly.

It's a story of another time. But the Prof. Hill still lives. And still brings life to some people. (brings fetal positions to others).

Perhaps this story will work again in another time.

gilbar said...

i see what you're saying Temujin, but remember; it's not a story of another time

It's a story of another time (the 1950's) looking BACK at another other time (the turn of the century)
A version actually FROM the progressive era of 1913 would be WAY different from our movie.
Our movie is a nostalgic look at nostalgia for another era. There's a lot coloring Meredith's memories of that time.

traditionalguy said...

I'm getting ready for the moment The Professor plays Somewhere My Love on her balalaika.

David Begley said...

Mary Poppins, 1964.

I’d like to see the NYT reviews of the movies Ann has reviewed.

traditionalguy said...

Just remembered that our Music Man Preston also played the wagonmaster courting Debbie Reynolds in the star studded 1962 tour de force, How The West Was Won.

David Begley said...

I’ve looked at the list of movies released in the years Ann has done so far. Now go compare them to the movies of today. No contest.

c365 said...

They don't make them like they used to.

One of my all time favorites, next to the wizard of Oz, the best film of all time.

Another one that will surprise you is the pirates of Penzance. Kevin Klein, Angela Landsbury, and some others you'll recognize. The musical performances seem off to our polished modern productions the first time you watch it, but you'll be fully converted to it by the time leap year gets mentioned.

SF said...

Absolutely adore this musical, and the movie is one of the very best movie versions of a stage musical.

One thing I've wondered as I learned more about older musical traditions. The "think method" is almost exactly how a traditional Irish musician would have learned music back in the day. You listen to other people playing a tune until you understand how it goes, and then mess around with your instrument until you've learned how to reproduce those sounds. No sheet music or music theory involved.

That said, part of the reason this works is every musician is playing the melody. It would be much tougher (though I bet there are people who have done it) to learn to play a full arrangement by ear.

Ann Althouse said...

"That said, part of the reason this works is every musician is playing the melody. It would be much tougher (though I bet there are people who have done it) to learn to play a full arrangement by ear."

How did Hill teach the Buffalo Bills to sing in 4-part harmony?

Hagar said...

The next time I saw Maaarion the Libraaaarian was in "Elmer Gantry," and I was thoroughly shocked. Such language!

How times have changed!

Roy Jacobsen said...

No love for "Rock Island?"

"No, the fellow sells bands, boy's bands. I don't know how he does it, but he lives like a king and he dallies
and he gathers and he plucks and shines, and when the man dances, certainly boys, what else? The piper pays him! Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir, yes sir.
When the man dances, certainly boys, what else? The piper pays him!"

tcrosse said...

I remember seeing a video of a high school production of The Music Man in which Monica Lewinsky performs Shipoopi, cavorting her considerable bulk around the stage. Somebody must have bought it up and burned it.

Dan in Philly said...

What bothers me about the Music Man and the movie version is the lack of presentation of the rich lives of the River City citizens before the con artist Harold Hill shows them all their missing in their lives. By the end of the movie their lives are, maybe fo the first time, interesting, exciting, and full.
Compare to the car more respectful treatment in a show like "Our Town," which shows how nuanced and full of joy, sorrow, laughter and tears even life which is "simple" can be.

tcrosse said...

Robert Preston was brilliant as another travelling salesman in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960), which does not seem to be available on video nohow.

Nichevo said...


rcocean said...
Can we take up a collection for Althouse to See "Goldfinger" ? I'd love to see her write that she felt sorry Goldfinger when Bond cheated him in the Golf Game. And the Chinese at the end? They were just undocumented immigrants.

7/1/19, 10:52 PM


+1. Also if you have Netflix the Bond movies are often free in rotation. But it'd be worth any price to see her eyes bug out of her head when Bond sees off the blonde at the pool in the opening scene.

Incidentally, Goldfinger had a very Big Band sound to it. Perhaps that was the Zeitgeist of the age?

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Truly a great post.

My first band teacher came to a small village in Alberta, Canada to pitch the idea of a band. He was already driving out from Calgary in his station wagon to conduct/inspire at other places, so he could fit us in on Friday afternoon. He had a deal with a music store in Calgary to rent or sell instruments. When I asked my aging mother, years later, how this guy made a living, she said he charged for every rehearsal, like charging for lessons. He actually had a musical background. He knew he had to sell the parents, and an early concert would help. I asked him what horn I should play (we were lined up to talk to him, he was anxious to hit the road) and he said: you have buck teeth like me, you should play the trumpet. I was thrilled. For our first concert we marched or shuffled into the gym from the back door, one kid pushing the bass drum in a baby carriage, "the bass mobile." I played a trumpet solo. No Beethoven at that stage. Memories.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

“SAW ! SAW! Don't you sing like those bugs! SAW! SAW!"

Now THAT’S funny!

gilbar said...

How did Hill teach the Buffalo Bills to sing in 4-part harmony?
he explicitly states that THEY ARE NATURALS,
probably because of their years of being a professional quartet BEFORE Hill showed up

gilbar said...

Supposedly, not only did Johnny Cash not read a note of music; the only person with him at San Quentin that might have been able to was, one of the Carter sisters (Helen, i think).

I personally never believed any of that; but that's what he says in the song I Don't Know Where I'm Bound

JZ said...

Mayor Shin to his daughter’s boyfriend: “You watch your phraseology!” I can’t remember what piece of slang the kid used. Something he picked up in the pool hall, probably. It’s a movie I can watch again.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The Music Man is the national musical of the State of Iowa. My hometown in Southwest Iowa hosts a marching band jamboree every October. I came back for it a couple of years ago. It’s still a great event but a number of the small towns either can’t afford or are too cheap to buy band uniforms, and instead clad their band kids in matching t-shirts. Also, each band used to be proceeded by a uniformed Cub Scout bearing a banner with the junior high or high school’s name. That has also gone by the wayside.

Greg P said...

The other ladies — led by the magnificent Hermione Gingold — think there's smut in those books

And they're right! Which is why we love those books

Ken B said...

Saw it live at the Stratford Festival this year. Excellent. Playing until October!

Ken B said...

Wild 1964 guess, Father Goose. Good Neigbor Sam.

weh said...

If you listen carefully, you may think Marian is the boy's mother, not his sister. This fits better with her aversion to traveling salesmen and the other women's opinion of her.

Rory said...

"Mayor Shin to his daughter’s boyfriend: “You watch your phraseology!” I can’t remember what piece of slang the kid used."

Great Honk!

mockturtle said...
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mockturtle said...
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mockturtle said...

Great movie. My favorite number is The Wells Fargo Wagon but lots of memorable songs and clever dialogue, unlike most 'musicals' nowadays.

And the idea of the 'progressive' but naive librarian falling for the con man is so true to life.

Ann Althouse said...

“If you listen carefully, you may think Marian is the boy's mother, not his sister. This fits better with her aversion to traveling salesmen and the other women's opinion of her.”

I could believe that she’s the mother with Henry Madison as the father.

I don’t think she’d have been taken in by an earlier traveling salesman. And there’s a lot in the story about Madison. He’s the one the other women believe she had an affair with. His statue is the centerpiece of the square that’s the stage for “Ya Got Trouble.” And Marian and Madison bonded over books. The scene town the end where everyone is running wild is in Madison Park. Lots of clues for that theory.

But I think the presentation is clearly that Marian has never experienced physical love until the Music Man arrived.

Madison was, like her, words waiting to be set to music.

Mrs. Paroo is the mother, and she’s presented as in the know about sex. The boy is her son.

Just Mike S said...

Not too OT I hope. It would be impossible today to reproduce the experience of seeing a film like this as it would have been seen in a theater during it's initial release. In my town, and I assume in other towns, there were a few theaters featuring wide cinemascope screens, 70MM projectors and stereophonic sound devoted to screening big productions like Music Man, Man of LaMancha, Fiddler on The Roof, Doctor Zhivago and so forth. Attending one of these screenings was akin to attending a stage production - people dressed in evening clothes, intermissions,etc. Today you'd see it in a shoebox or at home. As a young man I had (now as I see it) the good fortune to work in one of these grand venues, albeit during the waning age of the art. Our last "theatrical" screening was the rock opera Tommy. They chopped the place up into 5 or 6 tiny theaters and eventually tore it down altogether.

Narr said...

mockturtle@1132--

I saw that scenario play out so often in my library career! It was usually something to with automation and digitization, the gals just ate that stuff up.

Narr
Regressive Male Librarian (Ret'd.)

mockturtle said...

The 'Marian as Winthrop's real mother' theory is believable. I have a second cousin who grew up thinking [maybe he still does] that his mother is his sister, as he was adopted by his grandparents after their daughter's untimely, hush-hush pregnancy.

Rory said...

They ran into a little casting issue: from premier of the play to the movie, Pert Kelton (widow Paroo) aged from 50 to 55. The 10-year old playing Winthrop changed to 8-year old Ronnie Howard, and the 30 year-old playing Marion turned into 28-year old Shirley Jones. So the family starts to look implausible if you look too close.